Andrew Watkins is dedicated to being at the forefront of his field. He understands that financial planning requires continuous learning and staying updated with the latest trends, regulations, and market developments. Andrew honed his skills at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, where he delved into various finance domains, equipping himself with a comprehensive understanding of the subject. Andrew’s passion lies in investment management and its potential for wealth accumulation. This drove him to graduate in 2007 and join a Merrill Lynch team that served high net-worth clients. It was during this time that Andrew faced his first significant challenge—the financial crisis.
With his proactive approach and exceptional communication skills, he was able to reassure his clients of the long-term stability of their long-term financial plans, even amidst market volatility. In 2009, Andrew decided to relocate to North Carolina and founded Triangle Wealth Advisors. Over the course of 15 years, Andrew and his team have overcome numerous obstacles, always prioritizing the interests of their clients. Through strong partnerships and a deep commitment to their clients’ financial well-being, Andrew and his team consistently exceed expectations, helping clients their and exceed financial goals beyond what they previously thought possible.
Here are the highlights of the interview the interview in which Andrew shared more about his background, expertise, and philosophies, all of which have led to the rapid growth of Triangle Wealth Advisors:
How do you ensure that your company’s offerings are diversified enough to meet the needs of a wide range of clients? What strategies have you used to attract and retain clients?
We have made the strategic decision to partner with Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company. As a top 5 independent broker-dealer in the US, Northwestern Mutual offers our team industry-leading equity research and financial planning software. Our offerings range from best-in-class insurance products with multiple insurance carriers to stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and private equity. Our clients’ goals are the core focus of our team’s approach, and we build customized strategic plans using these offerings. Our biggest differentiator is our ability to listen to our clients and help them develop a plan of action towards their personal goals. We’ve found our team’s attention to detail has led to organic growth through client referrals as well as through a few select CPAs and attorneys. Our team takes pride in providing a great client experience, and through this, our clients have become our biggest advocates.
What qualities do you believe are essential for effective leadership in the wealth management industry? What leadership style do you personally prefer and why?
I think a great leader in the wealth management industry is very similar to a great team leader or coach in athletics. A leader in wealth management understands the end goals of the clients and develops an effective game plan to achieve the desired target. A great leader takes the extra step to educate clients on how each piece fits into their tailored plan and listens to their concerns and questions. Our team wants our clients to understand their strategy so well that they can articulate it to a friend/colleague at a dinner party. My personal leadership style is best categorized as leading by example. I’ve never asked a team member or client to do something that I’ve not personally done. I think this is very important in the wealth management industry, as it’s important to “put your money where your mouth is.”
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the wealth management industry? What steps has your company taken to adapt to the changing landscape and continue providing value to clients?
The impact of COVID-19 has been enormous in the wealth management industry, and there have been lots of opportunities and challenges as a result. One improvement in efficiency has been in virtual client communication. Nearly all our clients are familiar with Zoom and e-signature platforms. This has significantly increased the speed at which client strategies can be implemented and eliminated most geographic barriers. Clients have also appreciated the reduction in their commute time between meetings as review meetings can generally be coordinated in their homes or offices via video conferencing. It’s also allowed for more frequent check-ins to ensure that important planning opportunities aren’t missed. Some examples would include the following: screen sharing over Zoom to review beneficiary designations on active retirement accounts at a client’s employer; discussing a cash strategy for an unexpected bonus, retirement allocation adjustments when employers change or change investment platforms. The biggest challenge has been the abrupt nature of the virtual transition. Our team needed to quickly adapt so each member could work remotely, which included adjusting our new client onboarding system and how we communicate as a team. Overall, we’ve found that the pandemic has allowed our team to enhance the client experience and work with successful people all over the country. We’ve had our firm’s three best growth years in a row following the pandemic, and we credit our enhanced systems and client advocacy.
Who are the people that have influenced and impacted you the most throughout your career? Are there any books or life experiences that have shaped your perspective on wealth management?
My parents have had a significant impact on my career, as they’ve been great examples of hard work and were supportive during my difficult decision to move states and start my own firm.
My first business coach, Jason Selk, also greatly influenced my career, as he taught me to focus on process goals instead of the end result. He coached me to execute consistently on the things I could control and trust that the end results would be achieved. This mindset has been very helpful with coaching clients.
I’ve formed study groups with other CFPs across the country over the years that have helped our team stay on the cutting edge of planning strategies.
My team has changed over the years, but Kelsey Robertson has been the rock of the team. She’s worked with me for nearly 10 years and does so much for our clients and team. She’s truly amazing!
How do you create and maintain a positive work culture within your organization? What steps do you take to ensure that your employees are engaged, motivated, and feel valued?
At Triangle Wealth Advisors every team member has contributed to our team’s vision, which is reviewed together on a semi-annual basis, and each team member has a professional development plan. Each team member is integral to the team’s success and takes ownership of their unique roles. We also have a monthly team get together where one team member presents on a topic that other team members would benefit from knowing more about. This has included areas of operational efficiency, social security claiming strategies, the SECURE 2.0 update, and proposed tax legislation. One of our core team values is growth, and it’s very important that every team member feels valued and has a growth mentality. Our organization maintains a fast pace as we continue to grow our impact exponentially.
What do you believe will be the biggest change in the wealth management industry over the next five years? How do you plan to prepare your company for these changes?
That’s a tough question. I think the wealth management industry has changed so much since I started 15 years ago and is evolving every day. The industry has become more regulated, and the fiduciary responsibilities of advisors are likely to be enhanced. As a fiduciary advisor, I must ensure my recommendations are in the client’s best interests and that strategies are updated to reflect the changing needs of our clients. The future will likely include further use of artificial intelligence and continued remote capabilities. Clients will have access to advisor teams all over the country, so it’s very important for us to continue to be leaders in the field. We must be nimble in our approach and continue to coach clients well while offering best-in-class solutions.
What advice would you give to leaders and entrepreneurs who are interested in entering the wealth management industry? What skills and qualities do you believe are necessary for success in this field?
The wealth management industry is a great industry to be in. The field is constantly changing, and there is always more to learn. No day is ever the same. That said, you must be hungry to learn. Also, there are many aspects of our industry that are not strictly financial. Being patient and a good listener are vital to building good client relationships.
How do you plan to stay competitive and maintain your company’s position as one of the most influential players in the wealth management industry? Where do you see your company in the next five years?
Our team continues to grow its capacity through talent acquisition and enhanced development plans. Each team member either has their CFP (Certified Financial Planner) designation or is actively working towards it. We regularly attend trainings to enhance our product knowledge and learn about upcoming opportunities. Over the next five years, our team looks to continue to partner with successful families all over the country and double our assets under management. Our success will be measured not only by our financial growth but also by the impact and referrals we receive from our clients.